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Thursday, June 26, 2008
International

Indian coalition still deadlocked over nuclear deal

Crisis talks between India's ruling Congress party and its left-wing allies ended yesterday without them resolving a dispute over a nuclear energy deal with the United States, officials said.

The parties, however, agreed to meet "in due course" for more negotiations over the pact with Washington, a divisive accord that has threatened to bring down the government and send India into early elections.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters the government coalition partners discussed "all aspects" of the deal, which would open India to long-denied Western nuclear energy technology.

Mukherjee, who led the 90-minute meeting between his Congress party and its anti-American communist partners, who are fiercely opposed to the deal, said the two sides will hold further talks.

"The next meeting of the committee to be convened in due course will finalise its findings," he told reporters, declining to reply to questions.

India, a declared nuclear weapons power that refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has been barred from buying atomic energy technology.

But the pact with the United States bypasses that by allowing India to shop for such hardware and fuel if India can separate its civil and military nuclear programmes and allow some United Nations inspections.

India must work out a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and get a waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The agreement then would return to the US Congress for ratification. New Delhi is aiming to get the deal there before US President George W Bush leaves office in January 2009.

PTI adds: The UPA government got support from unexpected quarters when the Shiv Sena yesterday hit out at the left parties for its opposition to the Indo-US deal and said barring the left everybody knows that it would benefit India.

"There is no doubt that the Indo-US deal will be in the interest of India. This is a fact which everyone knows except the left parties." an editorial in the party mouthpiece 'Saamana' said.

Dubbing the leftists as "red monkeys", 'Saamana' said they are taking a hardline stand against the Indo-US deal only to keep China in good humour even at the cost of India's development.

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